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article imageIndia recruits a German Shepherd army to protect wild tigers

By Megan Hamilton     Jun 23, 2015 in Environment
Bhopal - The newest soldiers in India's fight against wildlife poachers walk on four legs and bark their commands.
These new soldiers, German Shepherds actually, are known as wildlife sniffer dogs, and they were officially inducted into their new jobs on June 20.
They now serve in the country's police forces and forestry departments, and these 14 dogs have been put through their paces, Quartz reports.
A file photo of a German Shepherd.
A file photo of a German Shepherd.
Photo Wikipaedia
The dogs went through grueling sessions to learn how to detect wildlife products like tiger skins, ivory tusks, and bones of endangered birds. They also learned how to locate injured animals, making it easier for authorities to capture poachers swiftly. Now, they'll be working in seven states, all of which are home to tiger populations — Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand, and Karnataka.
Their induction effectively doubles the number of sniffer dogs in India, Quartz notes.
The dogs, along with their 28 handlers were trained in a program conducted by TRAFFIC, an agency that monitors wildlife trade and illegal trafficking. In India, the agency is based in New Delhi, and is a division of The World Wildlife Fund India (WWF). The program is funded jointly by TRAFFIC and WWF-India.
Tiger s head
Tiger's head
Lee Carson on Wiki Commons
In addition to learning to sniff out tiger and leopard bones, the dogs also learned how to sniff out bear bile and several other types of wildlife contraband when they are deployed in the field.
Since 2008,13 of these trained German Shepherds have been working at key sites and have been involved in over 100 wildlife seizure cases in recent years, TRAFFIC reports. One dog in particular, named Jimmy, helped bust 25 wildlife poaching and smuggling cases and was awarded a Certificate of Merit for his trouble.
Indian mynah bird.
Indian mynah bird.
cus07 Wikimedia Commons
The WWF notes that the illegal wildlife trade is widespread and is likely the fourth largest in value behind the trade in illegal narcotics, arms, and human trafficking. In India, the most commonly known illegal products are mongoose hair, snakeskin, rhino horn, tiger and leopard claws, bones,skins, whiskers, elephant tusks, deer antlers, turtle shells, musk pods, bear bile, medicinal plants, timber, and caged birds such as mynahs, parakeets, and munias.
India plays a very large part in the worldwide illegal wildlife trade, especially as a source of tiger bones and rhino horns, Quartz reports. Statistics from Interpol show that worldwide, the illegal wildlife trade is estimated to be worth around $20 billion.
Because their bones are still used in traditional Chinese medicine and their skins bring in high prices at international markets, India's tigers are at high risk from poaching, and in 2013 the number of tigers killed reached its highest level in seven years, with 39 deaths recorded. The good news is that the total recorded wildlife crimes in India dropped by about 14 percent between 2010 and 2012.
Tigers and India's other beautiful wild creatures definitely have an ally in these four-legged soldiers.
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